Dear Amy: I married a lovely man two years ago. We lived together for three years before marrying.

We met as his first, long-term marriage was falling apart. We are both 70. We spend most of our time together, but my husband has kept most of the other parts of his life a bit removed from our marriage. He insists that he is faithful.

In doing our taxes, I found that four "visits to his dentist" are nonexistent, according to the insurance company. I believe he has lied about where he has been on those days when he claimed to have been at the dentist.

I have tried to trust him, despite knowing that he cheated on his first wife. How do I deal with this situation? Do I let this go, do I hire a private investigator, or should I just leave him knowing that secretive behavior is going to ruin my emotional well-being?

Amy says: You don't mention other examples of behavior you believe is "removed from your marriage," and so I wonder why you leap so readily to unfaithfulness — unless, of course, you were your husband's affair partner when he was unfaithful to his first wife.

If so, you detect a pattern of deceit because in the past you were a part of it.

I can think of many activities your husband might be doing during his non-existent dentist appointments that he might want to keep private, including pursuing sex.

Furthermore, I don't think most couples double check on their spouse's various appointments to the extent that you have — unless your husband was claiming dental expenses that don't exist for tax deductions. If that is the case, then you could add fraud to the possibility that he is a philanderer.

There is an extreme lack of trust in your relationship, and before hiring a private investigator or leaving altogether, you two should sit down with a counselor. And if your husband won't go, you should seek therapy on your own.

You're right — staying in this marriage without change is not at all good for your emotional well-being.

A very bad sign

Dear Amy: I have been with my girlfriend for three years. We live together and get along really well. We are very open with each other.

We use each other's phones for calling or looking up something on the internet. But I've never gone through her text messages, and I assume that she has never gone through mine.

I recently used her phone because mine was in our car. I was on the internet when a text message came in from her sister. I could see my name mentioned in the notification so I clicked on it and saw an entire conversation with her sister about me.

I was completely shocked by what I saw. My girlfriend criticized my looks, my habits, even our sex life. She referred to me by an offensive name. It was just a stream of terrible stuff.

Now I'm not sure what to do. I love her and don't want to break up. Maybe she was just upset about something and venting. What do you think?

Amy says: When you are upset about something and venting, do you trash her (or anybody else you love) using mocking and offensive language? When you're mad at her, do you criticize her looks, her habits and your sex life?

I assume you don't.

She doesn't respect you. Couples can come back from many things, but once the basic respect is gone, I don't think you can get it back. You have a tough conversation and a tough choice ahead.

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